Birthdays are great for so many reasons – you get an entire day to celebrate someone for just being themselves, it’s a good excuse for a party and bubbles, and it’s a great excuse to eat cake! Whether it’s my birthday or that of someone else, birthday cakes are a bit of a big deal for me – I love dreaming them up, making them come to live and (of course) enjoying the finished product.
It was Kevin’s birthday last weekend, and while I spent weeks teasing him that I couldn’t be bothered making him a cake, there was no doubt I’d make him something special. So while he spent the day lifting weights and being fit at a Crossfit competition (as you can tell, I clearly know all the ins and outs of the sport!), I got busy whipping up a special cake to surprise him with when he got home.
Like many people, Kevin’s BIG on chocolate – he loved it way more than I do! So it was a no-brainer that his birthday cake would be absolutely packed with chocolate. But that in itself isn’t particularly special, so I decided to work hazelnuts into the recipe.
The result? A triple-layered chocolate cake infused with hazelnut coffee, stacked and iced with whipped milk chocolate buttercream and finished with a halo of crushed toasted hazelnuts. YUM.
While the batter of the cake itself is based on a super simple chocolate cake recipe (seriously – it’s a one bowl, one mix wonder), I amped up the flavour by replacing the plain coffee used in the mixture with Nespresso’s limited edition Hazelnut Dessert variation. It has a sweet caramel taste with just a hint of hazelnut, making it perfect for this hazelnut birthday cake.
Don’t like coffee? Don’t worry – the coffee used in this recipe (whether you go with the fancy one like I did or your personal favourite) is only there to enhance the chocolate flavour of the cake; the cake doesn’t taste like coffee! Using a flavoured variety will bring all those extra flavours into your finished cake too, helping make it extra special.
As for the milk chocolate buttercream… well, it’s a dream. How could it not be when you literally beat melted milk chocolate into light, fluffy buttercream? Yes, it’s sweet. Yes, it’s a BIG treat. Yes, it’s totally perfect – especially for birthday cakes! The crushed toasted hazelnuts add a bit of interest to the cake, breaking up the sweetness slightly with a little nutty flavour. Plus they make the cake look pretty gorgeous!
Makes one three-layer 6 inch cake
- 1 cup buttermilk (milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)
- 250ml Nespresso Hazelnut Dessert coffee (or your own favourite), cooled
- 2 cups plain flour
- ½ cup cocoa
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup oil
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 100g butter, softened
- 200g milk chocolate
- 2/12 – 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
- Hazelnuts, handful
- Preheat oven to 180 Degrees Celsius. Grease and line three 6 inch cake tins.
- Make coffee and set aside to cool. Prepare homemade buttermilk and set aside.
- Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Add eggs, vanilla, oil, coffee and buttermilk and mix on a low speed until combined. Mix on medium speed for about 1 minute.
- Pour into prepare cake tins and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in tins for 5 minutes then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely before icing.
- Once completely cool, break chocolate into pieces and melt in microwave in 30 second bursts, mixing between each.
- Beat together butter and 2 cups icing sugar until smooth. Add melted chocolate and mix until well combined. Add more icing sugar if too runny. Beat until light and fluffy.
- Stack cake layers together, layering with prepared buttercream. Scoop remaining icing on top of stacked cake and spread until cake is covered.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Place hazelnuts on baking tray and roasted them in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and place on clean tea towel. Rub lightly to remove loose skins.
- Place in a snaplock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Scatter nuts across top of cake, pressing lightly into the icing.